Christians tell atheists that THEY have the big answers to life’s big questions. And of course, they might have answers. But are they worth listening to?
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Answering life’s big questions may not be as important an accomplishment as Christians think.
Do we live in a world with a god? It doesn’t look like it (part 1 here).
Let’s continue our investigation with the next clue that we live in a world without God:
Christians like to claim that their religion can answer the big questions, the questions that are fundamental to all of us. (It’s often just a Big Question, a variant of “What is the meaning of life?”) However, the power of this question and Christianity’s claim to answer it crumbles under closer scrutiny.
This is a special case of CS Lewis’ argument from desire. Sure, we may want things—a happy afterlife, a big brother to watch over us, or God-given meaning in our lives—but that doesn’t mean those things exist. The same goes for any great question: just because we can imagine supernatural answers doesn’t mean they’re valid.
Alister McGrath, a priest and professor of theology who wrote a book about his journey from atheism to Christianity (to which I replied), explains the motivation for his quest for faith in this way: “I began to realize that the Existential beings need answers about meaning, purpose and value, not just an understanding of how the universe works. We find a similar motivation in the apologist William Lane Craig, who traced his life’s work back to the “fear and unbearable sadness” he had as a child when he learned of the death ( which I also answered).
Can we find common ground? Perhaps we need to go back to something as obvious as this: fear of death is not proof of the afterlife. And I doubt that even this simple observation will be accepted by all Christian apologists.
The big Christian questions (“Why are we here?” or “What is my purpose?”) are actually childish questions. Few people wonder why a dog is here or what its purpose is, and science clearly shows that humans are just another animal. If there is no deep supernatural reason or purpose for dogs, badgers or mosquitoes, why imagine there should be for humans?
Think about other big questions. Questions like “Why can’t I fly like Superman?” or “Why can’t I move things with my mind?” are frivolous, unimportant. Most of us accept that this is just not how reality works and move on. Questions like “Is this the right person to marry?” or “Should I take this new job?” are individual and not universal. We know there is no perfect answer.
“Why are we here?” is both universal and important, which gives it few peers, but it remains childish. Let me clarify that asking this question, which many of us struggle with, is not childish in itself. The problem arises when we see that this is a widely asked question and conclude that it must have an answer greater than us. It’s as if they’re imagining that this question is powerful enough to create a God-shaped void that will suck up a supernatural answer if asked by enough people.
Let’s grow. It doesn’t work that way.
See also: Christianity’s False Claims to Answer Life’s Big Questions
McGrath explains his frustration with science: “Humanity’s epistemic dilemma is that we can’t prove the things that matter most to us. We can only prove superficial truths. But McGrath has it upside down. Show us that there is more to life here on earth, and then we can worry about these unanswered questions. Until then, science is the discipline that tackles the problems that actually exist rather than chasing the pink unicorns that don’t exist.
What McGrath calls “shallow truths” are the fruits of science that prevent and treat disease, feed billions of people, and teach us about how the atom, cell, solar system, and universe work. . Religion can’t even pull itself together enough to tell us how many gods there are or what their names are.
That Christians have the luxury of pondering these existential questions is proof of the comfort of their lives. These Western Christians don’t worry about their next meal or staying warm. They may think food is created in the back room of the grocery store, that their favorite sitcom is real, or that Jesus walks invisibly beside them when life is tough. Compare that with people who have real problems – boys used as soldiers in the Congo or girls used as sex slaves in Cambodia. The “Big Questions” are the ultimate #FirstGlobalProblems in a society with airbags and training wheels.
Many Christians ignore it and come back, like a dog to its vomit, to insist, “Yeah, but I have the answers!
Uh huh. Bundles people have answers. Jim Jones had answers. The Westboro Baptist Church has answers. The Mormons knocking on your door have answers. Are your answers worth listening to? Why should I listen to your answers rather than theirs?
You ask what you say are the deepest questions of all, and yet the answers are location specific. In Pakistan, Muslims will give you meaning in life; in India, the Hindus will give you another; and in Mississippi, fundamentalist Christians will give you another. What kind of truth depends on location?
Let’s get back to the legitimacy of the question itself. To the pouting Christian: “Yeah, but what is the purpose of my life? I wonder if anyone needs a hug. Stop being a baby and answer it yourself. You are an adult, if your life needs a purpose, give it one!
If you want answers to these questions, they are right in front of you. Maybe you don’t like them. What is the meaning of life? This is the meaning you attribute to it.
Why are we here? For no reason more eternally significant than why a dog, a badger or a mosquito is here.
Where did we come from? Big Bang explains matter, and evolution explains biology.
Science does a good job of answering questions about reality, it’s just that Christians don’t always like the answers.
To be continued.
Religion convinces you that you are poisoned, when you are not,
then offers you the homeopathic remedy.